Garagiola Campaign Responds to @FakeGaragiola
Campaign manager calls parody tweets ‘despicable.’
The snarky tweets have been circulating since November, when state Sen. Rob Garagiola announced plans to run for U.S. Congress.
But now Garagiola's campaign team says parody tweeter @FakeGaragiola has gone too far.
The spoofer described Garagiola as a "smarmy," "philandering lobbyist" with "zero" accomplishments and characterized the lawmaker as a dirty politician, questioning his integrity by making claims about his personal life — infidelity, as of late.
The account has amassed more than 100 followers and published more than 50 tweets since Nov. 4, around the time Garagiola (D-District 15) started campaigning for the 6th District congressional seat.
Garagiola, 39, of Germantown, declined Patch's request for an interview, but campaign manager Sean Rankin responded on his behalf through email.
"Rob's children and family are off limits in the campaign," Rankin wrote. "Rob thinks it's despicable that someone would hide behind a computer screen and lob false accusations. This is Maryland, not Mississippi."
Rankin said Garagiola's campaign team believed someone who worked for Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex X. Mooney was behind the spoof. He did not give a specific name and said he "can't be for sure" whether a Mooney staffer was actually involved.
Mooney, a former state senator, considered entering the 6th District race but is now throwing his support behind the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.
When reached by Patch on Wednesday, Mooney said he didn't know anything about the account and said he hoped whoever was behind it was in compliance with the law.
"I don't think I've ever looked at the site," Mooney told Patch.
Twitter permits parody accounts as long as they aren't intentionally deceptive or misleading.
Whether Twitter is the next logical space for political satire in a Web 2.0 world (remember @MayorEmanuel?) or blurs the lines of ethical discourse is still ripe for debate. Nonetheless, the tweeting public seems to be OK with them as long as it's obvious they're fake. It's doubtful, for example, that @Jesus_M_Christ's followers actually believe God is the one parsing wisdom in 140-character spurts.
And it isn’t as though politicians are oblivious to the power of social media — many of the 6th District candidates have a presence on Twitter. Garagiola, from his real account, and Democratic opponent, financier John Delaney have been hurling tweets — Garagiola goading Delaney to release income statements and Delaney accusing Garagiola of skirting financial disclosure rules.
But Rankin said the parody account's commentary on Garagiola's personal life was "out of bounds."
"When it's used in a respectful manner, Twitter can be a great tool to engage citizens," Rankin wrote. "But what matters most are the candidates' records."